Saw Endgame, but there will be no spoilers, and about 2% of that movie will probably make it into this fic and by that I mean one character and that's it.
Steve stood as Bucky walked back out into the waiting room, passing the receptionist whose mouth snapped shut and she nodded to herself. Steve knew he would be waiting for a call from her for a second appointment since Bucky wasn't jumping at the chance to do it himself.
"How'd it go?" he dared to ask as they exited the suite and headed for the elevators at the center of the office building.
Bucky's eyes flicked to Steve, but the grumpy expression stayed plastered to the man's face. But somehow, this pleased Steve. It was definitely a face the old Bucky used to wear, but the Winter Soldier that had been in his friends place for the first month or so of them staying in DC wouldn't have been so careless.
He was allowing himself to feel.
"It was only the first appointment, Buck," Steve chuckled as the elevator opened for them.
"Then why did he jump right into the heavy stuff?" he grumbled.
Steve shrugged. "He can't make you talk about anything you don't want to, but you should."
Bucky slumped back against the elevator wall as Steve pressed the button for the ground floor. He had a lot he wanted to respond to that with, but ultimately kept it to himself. Steve wouldn't understand. The only thing Steve had had to come to terms with was everyone he loved had passed and he'd been frozen for 70 years. Bucky had that and the lengthy list of high-profile murders.
Steve watched Bucky from the corner of his eye the whole trip back to the apartment. They'd had loose plans to find lunch somewhere after the appointment, but those had been forgotten and Steve decided not to bring it up again.
All Bucky could think about on the way back to the apartment was Clara's face, frozen in the pod. Her knuckles, the skin dry and cracked. Her cheeks, red and wet from crying that night. He needed to go. He needed to find the men, and watch them bleed out at his feet.
"Do you need to take some laps?" Steve asked casually while they waited for the light to change at the corner a block from their building.
"What are you talking about?" Bucky grumbled, eyes shooting up and down the street.
Steve didn't reply, but swung his arm out to thump against his metal one, and it was then that he tuned into the high-pitched whine it was making. Bucky jerked his hand out of his pocket and released the fist he'd been making, the sound instantly ceasing.
"I didn't mean for this to make you more up tight," Steve said apologetically.
The light changed and Bucky wordlessly led the way across the street.
"I really think in the long run it's going to help."
"What if I'm just beyond help?"
"No one is beyond help, Buck."
"You don't know that."
"I do. I'm telling you right now."
"Steve, I swear to—"
Bucky froze as soon as he made it in the door and Steve almost ran into his back, confused.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded lowly of the redheaded woman kicked back on their couch reading a magazine.
She looked up and frowned with a mischievous cock of her head. "Still don't remember me? You're starting to hurt my feelings," she said sarcastically, returning to her magazine.
"Natasha?" Steve stepped around Bucky and shut the front door.
"You know her?" Bucky asked, waiting for Steve to nod before inconspicuously releasing his grip on the knife at his back, hooked into his belt.
"What are you doing here?" Steve asked, moving into the living room.
Natasha spun on the couch, putting her feet on the floor and tossing the magazine onto the coffee table. "You were in Russia and didn't even stop by?"
Steve rolled his eyes. "You didn't leave me a number to reach you at. Didn't even tell me where you were going to be."
"Well, I'm still hurt." She looked over to Bucky, who stood uncertainly in the doorway still. "You boys having a slumber party? Does Fury know about this? The government doesn't seem to."
Steve sighed and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms. "Fury doesn't need to know. He's not the head of SHIELD anymore."
"And the government?" she asked, amused.
"We'll see. I've been watching with an ear to the ground," Steve murmured. "I'm still waiting for the dust to settle."
"Well, I'm just surprised he still doesn't remember me."
"I don't like you," he grumbled in Russian to the woman, her face picking at the darkness in his mind. He fought against it, not wanting to remember whatever her face was dredging up. He pushed it back, trying to distract himself.
Natasha's eyebrows rose and she smiled.
"Natasha," Steve said in a warning tone.
"Don't be like that, Soldier," she replied easily. "I'm a friend now."
Despite his best efforts, a few words slipped past, flashes on dirty concrete walls, tall women with tight buns and black leotards, and uniformed officers. Bucky let out an angry huff. "The Red Room."
All amusement left Natasha's face and she sat up imperceptibly straighter. "Well, that's not as recent as I was thinking but…"
Steve's eyes flicked between the two. "What's the Red Room?" he asked hesitantly.
"It's where I was trained," Natasha explained quietly. "Before."
"I trained you," Bucky guessed stiffly, needing no real confirmation.
Steve stepped forward. "What are you doing here?"
Natasha leaned back on the couch, propping her feet up on the coffee table. "I was in the area, figured I'd come see how your search was going. I mean, I knew the file I gave you would probably be informative but I didn't think you would find him that fast."
"He kind of found us," Steve said. "Tony first, really. Tony called me."
The amusement made its way back to her lips. "I'll bet that was exciting."
"Twice," Bucky confirmed. "You gave Steve the file?" Natasha nodded. Bucky glanced at Steve before switching tongues. "Would you be able to look someone up for me?"
She tilted her head, narrowing her eyes a bit, but went along with it. "Ooh, secret mission? Depends on who you're after."
"If I got you a list, could you get me anything you can on them?"
Natasha caught Steve's eye and she smirked. "Not sure I should," she said. She caught something in Bucky's expression and sighed. "I'll try."
Steve glared over at Bucky. "If you're about to do something stupid—"
"Please," he scoffed, brushing past Steve on his way to the kitchen. "You took at the stupid with you."
Steve frowned for a second, but it didn't last long.
"Well, he seems…better," Natasha noted, standing now.
"I can hear you," Bucky grumbled around a bite of apple.
"His hearing is still impeccable in his old age," she announced to Steve, who was now holding back a laugh.
"I guess I have nothing to worry about when I get to be his age, then," Steve added, pressing his lips together when Bucky's glare turned to him.
"More old man jokes? We just talked about this."
"Well, he got the black market serum, too," Natasha shrugged.
"You want to talk black market, let's start with your hacking skills," Bucky muttered in Russian, pulling a water bottle out of the fridge and heading down the hall to his room.
"Ouch," Natasha mumbled, but she was still smirking. She waited until Bucky's door clicked shut before she turned to Steve, grinning now. "That's the same guy that tried to kill us all a couple of months ago, right? I'm not seeing things?"
Steve nodded and moved to sit on the couch. "He's had a lot of help."
"Oh, I've learned," Natasha mused, crossing her legs. "Dr. Clara Maitland. Hydra has a whole new file on her. Are they sleeping together?"
Steve turned a dry look towards his friend. "What are you really doing here?"
"Following up on the file I gave you, mostly. Visiting a few friends." There was a few moments of silence. "Oh, yeah, and Stark has a mission for us. He found Loki's scepter."
Steve let out a breath and pushed himself off the couch. "Where are we headed?"
"Sokovia." Natasha glanced over her shoulder at Bucky's closed door. "Do you need a babysitter for him?"
Steve rolled his eyes. "He has one."
"Dr. Maitland. Right." She grinned and stood, watching Steve head for his own bedroom to pack. "Stark has out ride parked on the roof whenever you're ready."